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Tactical Analysis

Manchester United 0-1 Everton: Tactical Analysis | Quick transitional play

David Moyes faced his former club, Everton, since making the switch to Manchester United in the summer, at Old Trafford. Moyes has been highly regarded among the Everton faithful, up until his move to Manchester. The Scot, however, failed to record a single away win against the traditional (and now defunct) ‘big four’. Roberto Martinez has managed to better Moyes’ record in his first attempt.

Everton, who have lost just 1 league game all season, proved to be more than just a match for the Red Devils, claiming their first win at the stadium since 1992. While Martinez has continued his good start to the season, his predecessor has found it increasingly difficult to live up to expectations at the top of the table, and finds himself under pressure once again.

Manchester United 0-1 Everton


Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael (Januzaj 58′); Smalling; Vidic; Evra; Giggs; Fellaini; Valencia; Kagawa (Nani 58′); Welbeck (Hernandez 81′); Rooney

Everton: Howard; Coleman; Jagielka; Distin; Oviedo; Barry; McCarthy; Barkley (Deulofeu 69′); Mirallas (Naismith 90′); Pienaar (Osman 80′); Lukaku

Everton’s midfield flourishes in the transition

Everton’s urgency in getting the ball into the attacking zone proved to be a constant threat for the home side. The swiftness of Everton’s attack was difficult to handle as Martinez’ men used their midfield trio, Barkley, Pienaar, Mirallas, to get the ball into United’s box. The midfield trio were the connecting factor that made Everton’s attack click. The three-man midfield were technically apt and had more pace than United’s midfield.

Coleman and Oviedo also lent their helping hand in attack as Everton always had an extra man over, supporting the narrow midfield by providing width to their play.  There were multiple occasions, especially in the first half, where Everton had 3 on 2 situations but failed to make the most of it.

Lukaku would often shift wide to receive the ball, creating a vacuum in the centre, allowing Everton’s midfielders to make runs into the box and offer their support. Unlike United, which we’ll discuss further, Everton’s midfielders were constantly found in attacking areas, offering further options. There was no shortage of attacking outlets when Everton had the ball in and around United’s defence.

Everton had the towering presence of Jagielka-Distin on one end and Lukaku on the other, two strong assets on either side, leaving the midfield to link both ends with each other.

Contributions from Midfield

It’s often said that games are won and lost in midfield, and as we focused on in our Tactical Analysis of the Spurs 2-2 United game, the midfield was below-par as compared to the opponents once again.

The duo of Fellaini and Giggs both failed to keep up with the pace of Everton’s attack, while also failing to contribute adequately to the attack. There was barely any support from the central midfield. It resulted in Everton taking control in the middle of the pitch, and thus having a more telling contribution to the side.

United’s midfield has come under constant criticism this weekend, and one can see why. While Everton always had their midfield players over on in the attacking phase, United’s midfield failed to replicate this.

Besides Fellaini & Giggs, even Kagawa failed to have any significant contribution to the attack beside one shot on target. The midfield lacked the ability to defend, to contribute in attack and neither was there any creativy from the middle.

No midfield support United

As seen here, in the first half, Kagawa, Welbeck and Valencia have made their way into the box, but there is no sign of United’s midfielders offering support to the attack. Everton have players covering that part of the field.

The gap between the attack and midfield was a recurring factor in United’s side, forcing Rooney to drop deep again and create something from midfield. The battle was lost (and won) in the middle of the pitch. With United’s midfield failing to handle their counter-parts and not linking with the attack, the finger has to be pointed their way.

Compare that to the midfield of Everton and one can see the difference in approach. The hard-working Everton midfield was often around the United box, especially when possession was with their side. Just their presence helped in pressurising the defence.

Miidfield support everton

As seen in the illustration above, Everton had options in attack; the full-backs offered the extra man in a wide position, players got into the box and also positioned themselves outside the area to exist as a further threat to the opposition

United’s title credentials have taken a huge hit at the start of the season, will give you more, but it is common belief that signing a creative midfielder would help in aiding United’s progress (or rather halting their decline).

Everton’s strong defence

As mentioned earlier, Everton had a strong defence to keep the United attack under control. This defence was fairly static and didn’t attempt to be too clever with their play. They closed down the opposition when faced against an attack but never over-committed themselves.

The two players usually in the box for United were closely marked and thus kept quiet by the reliable combination of Jagielka and Distin. When playing their way into the box failed to turn up results, United resorted to crosses from the flanks. Not only did these leave gaps at the back, but United failed to deliver anything meaningful; thus allowing Jagielka and Distin to stay in control.

A combination of poor crosses and superior aerial ability of the Evertonians, Manchester United wasted 25 of their 35 crosses. A further point proving that United lacked a plan B, desperately attempting to make plan A work.


As seen above, Rooney & Welbeck were closely monitored and not offered space to work into thus having a quiet game.

Between them, Jagielka & Distin won 10 headed duels out of 13 which is an impressive stat. They made crucial tackles preventing any United attack from materializing.

The decisive goal

While Everton did seem to be the more likely side to get all three, a draw seemed to be on the cards until United’s defense failed to control Lukaku. His ball across the surface caught United off-guard, especially Valencia. The Ecuadorian was left ball-watching as Oviedo reacted quickest to finish home the winner.

As seen above, Valencia failed to monitor the late run of Oviedo. In fact, Valencia has been played as a make-shift defender previously but has failed to produce a performance. He has put in average performances a little too often. It was a soft goal to conceded as you’d expect a United side to not lose their concentration at this point of the game.

Having said that, United rarely switch off at this level. Rafael was having a decent shift before needing to be withdrawn. With Valencia shifted to right-back, there was always a weakness there to exploit and Everton took their chance perfectly.

Pointing blame at Moyes is easy, but to concede a goal like that at that stage all comes down to the players cognitive state. You’d expect a United player to be more aware of the situation.

Lack or urgency

One factor that became synonymous with Manchester United over the years was their never-say-die attitude. United sides under Ferguson always fought till the end in an attempt to get a late winner. But Moyes seems to have failed to motivate the boys like Sir Alex did. The United side seemed lost for ideas, lacking in ability and not having the slightest bit of creativity as the game wore on (and when they went behind).

It has to be said that the side inherited by Moyes was bound to struggle. It was an ageing squad requiring reinforcements. United failed to get their targets and Moyes has been left with more or less the same squad at Ferguson’s disposal.

While Ferguson mastered the art of motivating his boys, no matter who made the squad, Moyes is relying on his footballing knowledge to get the results. That little bit of inspiration offered by the previous manager is lacking in the United squad and it is quite evident on the football pitch. Moyes, unfortunately for him, still doesn’t have the full support of the entire squad.

Where now?

Everton need to continue their fine start to the season in order to maintain their top 4 credentials. They’re currently tied with 4th placed Liverpool and yet to lose more than one game. Martinez looks to have very much settled into the side.

United on the other hand are under pressure to produce results. If they fail to garner a good run of form this December, even Champions League football, let alone the title, will be out of their reach.

Did you notice a tactical aspect of the game that we missed? If so, do leave a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.


Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar.
Sami Faizullah

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